Our pick of the best tracks for cruising your way a weekend of musical kicks in the sticks
Before the festival, comes the road-trip. Up and down the land, people are now stuffing their cars with tents and cranking their stereos. We’ve come up with 50 tracks to soundtrack your journey. Starting with one of Josh Homme’s sexiest road-huggers, Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘Go With The Flow’. It’ll put the right kind of speed humps into any festival road-trip.
You wouldn’t have let most members of Primal Scream operate a vehicle, any heavy machinery, or indeed a spork around the time ‘Screamadelica’ came out, and yet the full version of ‘Higher Than The Sun (A Dub Symphony In Two Parts)’ is just the right balance of euphorically pulsing and mystically soothing for a long journey. Don’t be surprised if you end up somewhere far stranger than Donington.
“OUT HERE IN THE FIELDS! NOODLES FOR MY MEALS!” The Who at the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970 was one of the performances that defined the rock festival experience. More than four decades on, and the best intro to any song by anyone ever is still a peerless way to get the adrenaline flowing, the neck-hairs a prickling and the Wayne’s World-style mass singalongs going.
Talking of Wayne’s World, there’s no way you can think of music, friends and cars without thinking of one particular scene in one particular film. Yes, it’s that much-copied scene in ’90s rock comedy classic Wayne’s World where Wayne, Garth and pals headbang along to Queen’s baroque masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. It demands reenactment.
There’s any number of Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers songs which would make perfect speedy, scrappy driving companions – ‘Roadrunner’, for starters – but for us, you can’t beat ‘New England’, a sweet and silly ode to travelling the world just to find that home is where the heart (and also hot running water and fridge full of food) is.
Doing a ‘We won the Mercury Music Prize, dontcha know’-sized jaunt round the big festivals this summer, Alt-J’s winsome and winning ‘Breezeblocks’ will be as refreshing as a summer breeze through a sunroof as you traverse that clammy tarmac.
On the Stones’ 1997 Bridges To Babylon tour, they held a web vote in which audiences could vote to change their setlist; one of the most popular corrections was the addition of ‘Gimme Shelter’, a howling masterpiece of storm-in-heaven bluesy menace. It’s essential listening before any rock festival. Just maybe don’t judge the early-doors bands too harshly when you do arrive…
If you’re going further than the corner shop, you should probably just put the whole of the easy, breezy, but heartsore-at-the-core ‘Harvest’ on your list. ‘Are You Ready For The Country?’ though, poses a question all your passengers should be asking themselves. And by ‘country’, Neil means ‘long-drop toilets’.
If you’re getting just a little bit too pumped-up for road safety, calm things down with Richard D James’ amniotic electronica twinkler ‘Jynweythek’ from 2001’s ‘Drukqs’. You don’t want to peak before you even muddy your shoes, do you? Have a travel sweet.
If you play Tom Petty And The Heartbreaker’s ‘American Girl’, and all your fellow travellers are not thumping every available surface while howling their little hearts out to this prime, palpitating gem of American heartland rock, you have no choice but to eject them immediately onto the hard should. Them’s the rules.
Have you heard this new Daft Punk song? It’s called ‘Get Lucky’. Some guy called Pharrell Williams on it. Apparently it’s really catchy, and it’s got this great rolling groove that seems like it could, should never end, a musical perpetual motion machine. No, we’re not sure if we’ve heard it around either.
World-bestriding rave monkeys Crystal Fighters are a pretty huge draw on the Euro festival circuit, and if you’ve ever seen them live in the small hours, you’ll know why. The acoustic version of their classily wistful Latin/Balearic banger ‘Champion Sound’ has a mystical campfire charm. Don’t be ashamed; get yer bongos out.
Nothing will give you the true grit and belly-fire to keep your chin up for those last few miles than Johnny’s manly mumble on ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’. Plus, when he starts listing those placenames, “I’ve been to Pilton and back” doesn’t really sound like such a big deal.
“Blue-jean baby, LA lady…” If we’re talking communal emotion, it doesn’t get a lot more universal than Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’, and the van scene from Almost Famous is second only to Wayne’s World in terms of compulsively re-enactable cultural adorability.
You probably don’t want to follow Lykke’s example in terms of her orienteering (you’ll find that following a) signs and b) roads is genuinely more effective) but you’ll struggle to follow the ace piano-house Magician Remix of her awesome ‘I Follow Rivers’.
Young and old, modern and classic united to electric effect in Jamie xx and the late Gil-Scott Heron’s collaboration album ‘We’re New Here’, one of the standout moments being ‘I’ll Take Care Of U’. Just think of the amazing cultural fusions you could cook up with that greybearded hippy thumbing for a lift! Go on, pull over…
Alright, we’re deep into the journey – time to crack out the seriously deep beats in the form of SBTRKT’S ‘Wildfire’. As slinky as blarting, wubbing synths can get, with Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano’s smokey, smoking vocal coiling round sinous bubblings. There’ll be some serious full-upper-body nodding in the back at this point.
Mac De Marco’s ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ is the perfect snake-in-the-grass wrong ‘un summer anthem, all good-time vibes, unsettlingly almost-detuning guitars and subtly dysfunctional lyrics. Just the thing you need for a disreputable road-trip.
As anyone who’s read the feature in this week’s NME will know, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox is an absolute indie hero in all regards. The truly magnetic and eerie ‘Desire Lines’ from 2010’s ‘Halcyon Digest’, where he implores “Come with me/For always/Every day” begs for pensive window-staring.
Biffy Clyro are going to own Reading And Leeds as comprehensively as they do not seem to own shirts. Give yourself a foretaste of their sweaty Caledonian rock god glory by air-drumming to their biggest pop-rock moment ever, ‘Bubbles’.
Slow-burn bangers: equally suited to both barbecues and length car-trips. This season’s beat-butchers of choice are London duo Mount Kimbie, whose ‘Made To Stray’ will keep you true to your destination.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ will set the tone for those festival small hours nicely, with softly psychedelic melodies that tumble your poor brain into a wet mess of emotions. In a nice way. “It’s a strange old state of mind” indeed.
LA indie-rockers Allah-Las are kindred spirits to Black Lips, all surfy sass and bad-kid mischievous intent. Their ‘Long Journey’ has a roll and swagger as comfortable as one of those novelty animal neck cushions you can get in the M1’s darker corners.
‘Apocalypse Dreams’: just the sort of reveries you’ll be having after three hours’ sleep over a weekend filled with pyro, falafel and friendly maniacs. The soothing innerspaces of Tame Impala’s sonic universe will make it seem less scary as the milometer turns you slowly back to reality.
Dark-hearted young Brooklynites DIIV’s angst-rock is both sweeping and thrusting, a bit like an inappropriate broom. ‘Doused’ will have you flouncing round those corners with moody aplomb. Goths like driving too, you know.
Making sure this year’s festivals will be both lairy and trippy at the same time, the Brummie scene figureheads are at their most swooningly, stroppingly exciting on this alternately liquid and explosive ‘Delicious’. You’re likely to be seeing them in a field at some point this summer, so get overexcited early and prolong the Peace-y pleasure.
‘Cough Cough”s shifting, sharp-cut rhythms are just the ticket for keeping tired brains sharp on the road, and that martial sense of purpose and synth-fizzy chorus will keep you backseat passengers drumming their knees until that deliciously flowing chorus kicks in. Everyone will be shimmyin’ in their seats. Well, as much as your seat belt will allow.
There are many reasons to put the dance track of the year, ‘White Noise’ by Disclosure ft AlunaGeorge on your playlist, but only one that makes it absolutely essential that hackle-raising, hip-twitching damn bass.
Few people do sun-fried euphoria like St Albans’ funky-limbed dance-pop ambassadors Friendly Fires, and ‘Kiss Of Life’ is one of their biggest rushes: best for sunrise, sunset, or any point in the journey that involves sweeping vistas. If you have no vistas, a hard shoulder will do.
“I’ll take my car and drive real far/They’re not concerned about the way we are/In my mind my dreams are real/Now you concerned about the way I feel toniiiiiiight…” ‘Rock N’ Roll Star’ is one of Oasis’ best “I’ll take you all on, on my own” moments from the early days. Be warned: could encourage reckless driving.
No traffic-fugged apathy can survived the juddering, air-raid warning impact of that intro to Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ – the way it unwinds itself from jagged stutters into great, looping swaggering curves of Slash’s guitar and Axl’s depraved moan. Plus, you can have a competition to see who can do the “Kn-kn-kn-kn-KNEES! KNEES!” bit best.
Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘Sun’ is a classically easy, breezy, steering-wheel tapper about feeling lost on your travels through the big world, but knowing somewhere back where you started, someone’s waiting. “Drawn apart, New York and London/Now all I see are distant drumlins”. Also, there’s a fun car game: drumlin spotting!
So, ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ by The Drums. First things first, friends: no one is getting on the roof. Let’s make that clear. No one on the roof. You can do that surfing dance with your hands, though, and wind that window right down for the wind in your hair and a summer-pop bouffant vibe.
Naughty, grizzly, grungy and rebellious – Darwin Deez’s ‘Free’ is perfect for getting a bit too lairy than is advisable in a hatchback at that “How far have we gone now? Twenty miles? Are you joking?” peaking-too-soon stage of the journey.
“Running with believers/No time for fevers: Jamie T’s ‘Sticks N’ Stones’ on the drive down will both get you in the scampering-over-grassy-expansives-like-a-geezer festival spirit, and serve as a serious-minded reminder of the necessity of avoiding food poisoning.
One of PJ Harvey’s strutty, shiny big rock moments, ‘Big Exit’ is the archetypal soundtrack to every perfect Badlands/Wild At Heart/True Romance style Bonnie’n’Clyde, you-and-me-versus-the-world movie ever made. Maybe you too can find your murderous soulmate in M&S Simply Food…
Two Tame Impala songs? Well, ‘Lonerism’ was our album of the year 2012, y’know, and if you listen to the none-more-stompy psych-romp ‘Elephant’ in a moving vehicle, you can pretend you’re actually riding an elephant. A war elephant.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ ‘Home’ perfectly sums up that sweetly tired, over-emotional home journey, with a rousing chanted chorus to drive tired feets onwards. Go on, lean your head on someone’s sleepy shoulder. Not if you’re driving, like.
Get that suspension well and truly tested with the smoothest, silliest of car-themed slow jams with R&B’s most twisted of utter geniuses: R Kelly’s ‘Ignition (Remix)’. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce…
The way David Byrne’s vocal builds from eerie, borderline-cracked resignation to full on psychotropic gospel wigout on the Talking Head’s ‘Road To Nowhere’ is the perfect soundtrack to the moment you realise you’ve just accidentally shot past the last services for 45 miles.
AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’: There’s no air con, your friends are doing your nut in, and you’ve got tent poles jabbing you where tent poles shouldn’t be. Still, only four hours to go! Don’t worry. Bon Scott, the rock god of the angry and cabin-fevered, feels your pain – this track was actually written about AC/DC’s gruelling touring schedule.
One of the all time great breaking-for-the-border riffs, Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ scores double points for its appearance on the soundtrack for classic tripped-out roadtrip movie Easy Rider, the film that nailed the ’60s in all their freewheelin, abyss-surfing madness.
The Beatles – ‘Drive My Car’ is probably the driving song that everyone thinks of first, and its sexily liberated undercurrents (“beep-beep, beep-beep, yeaaaaaah”), this would make a fittingly rousing soundtrack for the Changing Of The Sleepy Drivers.
If you’re lucky enough to be going to the Deerhunter-curated ATP this June, you’ll be able to see The Breeders’ Deal sisters sing their sweetly twisted country amble ‘Drivin’ On 9′ in person. If not, get this on and get your whistlin’ lips pursed.
Bruce Springsteen is a man who knows how to create energy, and his sparks have rarely flown faster than on this perky-riffed, thigh-slapping, “woo-hoo-hoo“ing, archetypally Springsteenian ode to the dignity of the working man, ‘Born To Run’. Go on, give that chap in the neon tabard a big hearty wave as you fly past with your fold-up featherbeds, you pampered little minxes.
Well, someone round here needs to be sensible, and in an unlikely turn of events, it’s Brett ‘Chemically Adventurous Arse-Slapper’ Anderson. Speed limits are there for a reason, in-transit revellers: take heed to Suede’s cautionary tale, the chilling ‘Daddy’s Speeding’, one of ‘Dog Man Star”s many dark corners.
Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip’s side venture Neon Neon are so automobile-obssessed they wrote a concept album about ’80s car designer John Delorean, and this crunchy, soaring synth’n’riff-pop of ‘Dream Cars’ has an airbrushed fantasy sheen that’ll have you reaching into the glove compartment for your coloured Ray-Bans.
Speed! The glory of the open road! Robots! Kraftwerk were so good at writing roadtrip songs, the adjective ‘motorik’ had to be dreamed up to do them justice. Your journey will speed me in a hum of vibrant efficiency with them by your side.
Some serious heart-thumping, dashboard-bashing torrid romance to guide you to your final destination. Roy Orbison, The Big O, and his ‘I Drove All Night’: Altogether now, and visualise that dance tent: “This fever for you is just burning me up insiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiideeeee“
“Here in my car/Where the image breaks down/Will you visit me please/If I open my door in cars“: has anyone ever captured the psyche-dissolving torture of a traffic jam so well as the Nume in the classic right-angled robo-romp that is ‘Cars’? If all that sounds a bit much, get your summer dystopian vibe on with Tobagan steel band Katzenjammer’s brilliantly sprightly cover instead.